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Weekend Forecast for July 11-13, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

July 11, 2008

Hey, even a Hellboy wants to look his best.

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We step back from the "one blockbuster per week" release strategy for a brief period as three middle tier summer films make their way to theaters. It's one of the few weekends of summer without a true "must-see" film, but one of the few with choices.

Guillermo del Toro is back with his twisted visual sensibility for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the sequel to the 2004 Hellboy film. Picking up where he left off with the captured and reformed demon that fights otherworldly bad guys for a secret American government agency, he pits Hellboy against the mythical world, which is aiming for a take-over of this one.

A huge part of the appeal of Hellboy is the lovable-ness of the character, a gruff, blue-collar super-hero who just happens to be giant and red. As played by Ron Perlman, he's one of the more lighthearted and enjoyable comic characters to watch on screen, in contrast to the enemies he fights, which tend towards the "unspeakable horror" type.

Visually, del Toro seems to have upped his game as well, learning from and expanding on his ideas from Pan's Labyrinth. It's a much more interesting looking picture this time around, even if he does tend towards the grotesque. Curiously, the film's advertising is treating this almost as a reboot, hoping to reach a group of viewers who haven't heard of the character through the comics or his previous movie.




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With a $23 million opening weekend and at $59 million total domestic gross, that's a lot of people. Why even make a sequel then? Well, it's one of those properties that's made a lot of money on video, and del Toro has many favors to pull in from his other successes. Which is not to mention that studios must look at the grosses of some lesser light franchise sequels like Resident Evil and Underworld, and think they can do better. It feels like they've done a good job in making the character a lot more accessible, upping the humor quotient while still having a solid mix of action. I see this expanding its audience significantly to about a $31 million opening weekend.

Meet Dave is the latest attempt for Eddie Murphy to try and make us forget that we ever thought he was funny. Its premise, which seems to seek to redefine "high-concept", has him star as "Dave", a human-sized spaceship/vessel that's piloted by a race of tiny humanoid aliens. Completely unfamiliar with human customs, they try to navigate their way around without attracting attention, but unwittingly cause a woman played by Elizabeth Banks to take him in and start to fall in love with him. Meanwhile there's a love drama of its own playing out on the ship between the captain and another alien played by Gabrielle Union.

It's probably a step or two up from Norbit, but it does bring to mind a film like Pluto Nash, an expensive sci-fi comedy that nearly destroyed Murphy's career. The hope here is that with the more physical elements of Murphy's acting in this that can help keep that kind of disastrous result at bay. They're probably, depressingly, right, even though Murphy is long removed from the days where he was a comedy lock. There's a real problem when the man who once did Raw and Beverly Hills Cop is reduced to getting laughs from awkward smiles.


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